Since he became general manager in 2009, Alex Anthopoulos has preached patience. He spent three years accumulating assets and building one of the best farm systems in the major leagues. He promised the Toronto Blue Jays would become contenders in the American League East.
That patience appeared to have paid off on Tuesday. When the Blue Jays proposed monster deal with the Miami Marlins becomes official, it will signal a new era for the team.
The excitement around Toronto today is warranted. The deal has been called career defining, a return to relevance, and a notice to the rest of the AL East that they mean business. For Marlins fans, and let's have a moment of silence for what's left of them, it's yet another rebuilding phase and another con job executed by owner Jeffry Loria.
Here's a look at the players on the move.
Jose Reyes, SS — A four-time All-Star and former National League batting champion. The 29-year-old batted "just" .287 in 2012, his first season with the Marlins, but that would have led the Blue Jays in batting. He hit .337 in 2011. He's the prototypical lead-off man the Blue Jays needed — he gets on base and can steal bases. He's entering the second year of a six-year contract (plus an option for 2018) that still has $92 million remaining.
Josh Johnson, RHP — Had spent his entire eight-year career with the Marlins and was a two-time All-Star. Like most of the 2012 Marlins, he underachieved going just 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA, but improved in the second half of the season. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007, and shoulder woes limited him to just nine starts in 2011, but he's still only 28 years old and, when at his best, he becomes the ace of the Blue Jays' staff. He has just one season remaining, at $13.75 million, on his contract before he becomes a free agent.
Mark Buehrle, LHP — The 33-year-old was a big free-agent signing for the Marlins last winter. He's a four-time All-Star who has averaged 14 wins per season over his 13 year career, and has pitched over 200 innings every year since becoming a starter. He pitched a perfect game on July 23, 2009 while with the Chicago White Sox. He signed a four-year deal with the Marlins and is now owed $11 million, $18 million, and $19 million per season by the Blue Jays.
John Buck, C — He spent 2010 with the Blue Jays before signing with the Marlins as a free agent. He has power, but it has declined in each of the last three years as ages. He'll turn 33 next season. He started 103 games behind the plate next season, but with the Blue Jays young catchers, a platoon of some kind seems more likely. He could also get extra at-bats at DH. He has one season left on his contract at $6 million.
[Slideshow: Blue Jays-Marlins blockbuster trade]
Emilio Bonifacio, UTL — He's only 27 but already on his fourth different team. He's a utility man who mostly played in the outfield with the Marlins but he did start 14 games at second base. He might compete with the recently signed Maicer Izturis for the everyday second base job, though it's unclear where he fits in. He made $2.2 million in 2012 and is eligible for arbitration this winter.
Yunel Escobar, SS — At 30 years old, he has already worn out his welcome on two different teams. He frustrates managers and fans with his streaky play but is a career .282 hitter and a fine fielder. His embarrassing eye-black snafu in September, his reaction, and the way the Blue Jays handled it made it obvious he was on his way out of town.
Adeiny Hechavarria, INF — When the Blue Jays signed the 23-year-old Cuban defector in 2010 it was considered a coup for Anthopoulos. He was one of the Blue Jays' top prospects and made his major-league debut this past August. He's considered a potential future Gold Glover with great range and a great arm, but his offence remains a question mark.
Henderson Alvarez, RHP — He's only 22 but already has 41 major-league starts under his belt. He has potential but saw his numbers balloon in 2012. He pitches to contact and gets a lot of ground-ball outs, but also gave up 29 home runs in 187.1 innings.
Jeff Mathis, C — The Blue Jays acquired Mathis in a trade with the Angels in 2011 and made him their backup catcher. He started 59 games and is a good defensive catcher but is a career .198 hitter and a career .570 OPS.
[Passan: Marlins trade is a baseball tragedy]
Justin Nicolino, LHP — One of the Blue Jays' top minor-league pitching prospects, he was part of a trio dubbed the 'Lansing Three' along with Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez. He's a 2010 second-round pick and named the Blue Jays' fifth best prospect by Baseball America.
Jake Marisnick, CF — The Blue Jays' No. 2 ranked prospect according to Baseball America. He's a 2009 third-round pick by the Jays and a potential five-tool player. He split 2012 between Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP — A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2011, he went 11-3 at Single-A Lansing in 2012. According to Baseball America, he's projected as a future bullpen arm.
It certainly appears like a one-sided deal for the Blue Jays today, though we'll see what Nicolino, Marisnick and Hechavarria have to say about that in about three years. But despite the major haul, no deal is without risks.
Johnson and Reyes have a history of injury woes and have seen their production decline slightly. Buerhle may not be able to pitch in the powerful AL East. Nevertheless, this deal makes the Blue Jays instant contenders. In fact, sports books in Las Vegas at one time had the Blue Jays' odds of winning the World Series as high as 100-1 — after the trade the odds moved to 15-1.
We'll leave the always-fun game of projecting the Blue Jays' opening day lineup and starting rotation for another day. Given Anthopoulos' history, he may not be done dealing.
Think back to the 2011 trade that sent Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angles for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Just four days later, the Blue Jays sent Napoli to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco.
One year after frustrated Blue Jays fans cried foul over the team missing out on big-name free agents like Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder, Anthopoulos stepped up to the plate. He addressed many of the team's offseason needs in one move.
The Blue Jays are now in a position to do what management and ownership has been promising for years — breakthrough and become contenders.